Sara Ting: Harnessing the Power of Poetry to Eliminate Bias and Prejudice
Sara Ting, the President and founder of World Unity Inc., is a visionary leader, TED Talk speaker, and author whose journey has been nothing short of inspirational. With a powerful and unique approach, she has dedicated her life to advancing the power of poetry as a means to address biases and prejudices in the world. In this interview, we delve into her remarkable narrative and explore the diverse range of initiatives provided by World Unity Inc., and D&I workshops she presents, through Sara Ting and Associates, shedding light on how Sara’s work has made a significant impact on promoting diversity, inclusion, and equality.
- The Journey towards Uniting Humanity
Sara’s remarkable journey begins with a simple poem, the “Sun Poem,” written in her personal journal in 1978. Little did she know this heartfelt expression of unity would become the cornerstone of her life’s work. The turning point came in 1985 when Sara shared the poem with a friend who happened to be a billboard representative. This friend was so moved by the poem’s message of inclusivity that she displayed it on billboards throughout Boston. The poem’s profound simplicity is encapsulated in its opening lines: “Are you greater than the sun/ that shines on everyone: Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and White/ the sun does not discriminate.”
Two years later, a transformative incident occurred. A woman who had initially despised the poem for stirring up memories of discrimination and prejudice later found healing and forgiveness through it. Seeing the poem every day in the lobby of the YWCA of Boston compelled her to let go of the past. This story of personal transformation sowed the seeds for the World Unity Landmark and the birth of World Unity Inc.
Sara draws inspiration from Mother Teresa’s words, “I’ve come more and more to realize over the years that it is being unwanted that is the worst disease any human being can ever experience,” Sara’s vision is clear: if everyone around the world could reflect upon the Sun Poem, its potential for healing and transformation would be immeasurable and limitless.
- The Unique Power of Poetry in Addressing Bias and Prejudice
One might question the effectiveness of poetry in addressing biases and prejudices compared to the legal and policy frameworks often employed for this purpose. Sara passionately asserts that poetry speaks to the heart, mind, and soul, where biases and prejudices reside. Poetry has the unique ability to touch our humanity, making us aware of our biases—an essential first step toward change. She points out, “laws and policies cannot remove unconscious biases we all have.” They are designed to control behaviour but cannot remove biases, change attitudes, or stop the perpetuation of bigotry and fear.
Sara’s work shows that to eliminate bias and prejudice, we must engage with the core of our humanity, she states,”we must be willing to look within our soul and heart and be okay with being uncomfortable. The benefit is personal and professional growth.” Poetry is a powerful tool for this, as it helps us confront and question our biases, fostering empathy, understanding, and ultimately, unity.
- The Role of World Unity Inc. in Promoting Diversity and Inclusion
As the President and founder of World Unity Inc., Sara wears many hats, from visionary leader to advocate and fundraiser. The primary goals of this non-profit organization are centered around the World Unity Landmark, the Sun Poem, and the song it inspired. These goals are realized through several key initiatives:
- Securing Sponsors: World Unity Inc. presents proposals to companies and philanthropists to become major sponsors of the World Unity Landmark, leaving a lasting legacy.
- Public Service Campaigns: The Sun Poem is promoted through public service campaigns in Boston and beyond, spreading its message of unity and inclusion.
- Educational Initiatives: “Singing Equality across America and Around the World” is introduced to educational institutions across the United States and beyond. It is planting the seeds of equality in the next generation.
- TED Talk as a Resource Tool: Sara’s TED Talk, inspired by the Sun Poem, is promoted as a valuable resource for organizations looking to enhance their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
- 5 Minute Leadership Dialogue: World Unity Inc. promotes its “5 Minute Leadership Dialogue,” a powerful tool to cultivate inclusive and collaborative leadership and foster conversations about DEI.
These initiatives have garnered positive responses from individuals and organizations alike, inspiring change and fostering unity.
- Shaping Understanding Through Personal Experiences
Growing up as one of the few Asian Americans in America, Sara shares personal experiences that have deeply influenced her understanding of diversity and inclusion. Despite her differences, she sought connections with children of various backgrounds, seeing them as people first, not defined by their color. This early perspective grounded her in her humanity and laid the foundation for her life’s work.
- The Impact of the “Sun” Poem
The “Sun Poem” has played a pivotal role in promoting racial and ethnic harmony in various cities. Its origin, in a moment of personal revelation, makes it all the more powerful. The poem’s message, displayed on billboards and other platforms, has contributed to healing and unity. Even thirty-five years later an Asian American leader remembered the Sun Poem, its impact in bringing harmony to Boston during a time of racial tension and conflicts.
- The Poetry-Based Diversity and Inclusion Workshop
Sara Ting has designed a unique diversity and inclusion workshop that leverages the power of poetry. In this workshop, she presents poetry, stories, and thought-provoking questions to engage participants and encourage self-reflection. This innovative approach helps individuals become more self-aware, connect with their humanity, and understand their biases. “Small Book with a Big Idea, 5 Minute Training to Empower You and Transform the World,” inspired by the Sun Poem, reinforces key concepts from the workshop.
- Teaching Poetry for Equality and Diversity
Sara’s experience as a poet-in-residence, teaching poetry to students of all ages, made her realize how valuable it is to help students find their voice. It allows individuals to connect with their inner world, fostering self-awareness, understanding of others, and a sense of shared humanity. Teaching poetry thus becomes a powerful tool for teaching students about equality and diversity.
- Key Takeaways from Years of Activism
Sara Ting’s years of activism and work in promoting diversity and equality through poetry have taught her valuable lessons. Perseverance, patience, compassion, humility, faith, and love for humanity are essential in this journey. Decision-making should be driven by reason rather than emotions, and collaboration with others who share the vision is key. Overcoming obstacles requires a focus on solutions, not the barrier, and a steadfast commitment to the ultimate goal.
- Future Initiatives for World Unity Inc.
World Unity Inc. envisions collaborative partnerships with educational institutions, healthcare companies, and industries such as high-tech, finance, and law to further the cause of diversity and inclusion. These initiatives aim to impact the future workforce, address healthcare disparities, and promote diversity in various sectors.
- A Message of Unity and Empowerment
In closing, Sara Ting’s work with poetry and diversity contributes to forging a deeper connection with our shared humanity. The Sun Poem’s universal truth that the sun shines on everyone, without discrimination reminds us of the values we should cultivate: love, understanding, peace, forgiveness, empathy, kindness, humility, and compassion. By empowering individuals to connect with their humanity and shine, we can create a world free from bias and prejudice. Sara leaves us with a powerful message: “Dare to be as great as the sun. Dare to shine on everyone.”
- Overcoming Obstacles and the Need for the World Unity Landmark
In the 30 years you have been persevering with your vision to build the World Unity Landmark, why is it needed, what has kept you and World Unity Inc. persevering, and how have you overcome obstacles like politics?
Sara’s Response: What has empowered me to persevere with the organization is my faith, believing in something greater than myself, focusing on the powerful responses from children to the song and adults to the TED Talk. Whenever the organization was confronted with an obstacle, we focused on solutions, and I kept my eyes on the goal. I did not focus on the barrier. We have a great board and long-time supporters who resonate with the Sun Poem and believe in our mission and vision. With each success we have, it empowers us to persevere. We focus on building partnerships, collaboration, and finding common ground.
The World Unity Landmark is needed to keep the truth alive for future generations. America has the Statue of Liberty expressing freedom. It is an iconic symbol promoted around the world, especially in countries where people are seeking democracy and freedom. There is nothing on the symbol that says “do not discriminate.” Can a person truly experience liberty if the individual is experiencing discrimination?
Social media and the internet are powerful tools in the digital world that have given humanity the power to share information and amplify voices globally. Unfortunately, it is being used by some people to promote information that sows division and hatred, which is impacting the real world every day! We need the Sun Poem to be shared in social media in every country with at least one person. Look what the poem did to me!
The World Unity Landmark, showcasing the Sun Poem in the real world, is needed now more than ever to illuminate minds with the truth: the sun shines on everyone, it does not discriminate. The World Unity Landmark will keep equality alive and ensure it will never die or be lost. When you empower individuals to connect with their voice, and their humanity, and shine, you cannot stop them from growing.